White House memo encourages public-private partnerships

By David Tanner, Land Line senior editor | Friday, July 18, 2014

President Obama has signed a presidential memorandum to encourage states to consider public-private partnerships for infrastructure projects. The president’s memo calls for the creation of a new office inside the U.S. DOT to provide technical assistance to states and private investors seeking “innovative financing” for infrastructure projects.

The new office inside the Department of Transportation will be known as the Build America Transportation Investment Center. It will be run by the DOT and Treasury secretaries.

Truckers may view public-private partnerships as being synonymous with toll roads, and tolls are certainly part of the innovative financing model for roads, but not all PPPs are for transportation. The memo says PPPs can apply to ports, electrical grids, water plants, schools and even the expansion of broadband Internet.

U.S. DOT and Treasury Department plan to convene an infrastructure summit on Sept. 9 in Washington, D.C., as a forum for stakeholders to discuss innovation and resources.

OOIDA would like to see more accountability built into PPP contracts to protect truckers and the public.

An example of a transportation PPP that contains little in the way of accountability and almost no recourse for the public is the $3.85 billion lease of the Indiana Toll Road by private investors from Spain and Australia in 2006. Not only did the Indiana Toll Road agreement allow truck tolls to more than double in the first five years from $14 to $32, but it also  contains a “non-compete” clause that prevents the state from fixing up any nearby toll-free roads that could compete for traffic.

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